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Spring along the Baltic Sea: Encountering changing soundscapes of flora and fauna with an everchanging climate

By Susie Ibarra

All Photos by Jake Landau

A white crane eating on a newly harvested farmland in Rügen Island, Ostee /Baltic Sea , Germany

It was like following directions for a treasure hunt on the last field day of searching and following cranes on the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany last April. We were waiting for magic to appear around a corner, under a bend, alongside a newly tilled farmland, down a winding road. “Before Spyker Castle, on a road with an incline, there’s a parking lot on the right side where there is a dip in the road. You may find them around the bend.” Receiving texts and directions from Heribert Hofer, Behavior Ecologist.

White crane flying overhead in Rügen Island, Baltic Sea.

Recording sounds of the flora and fauna during spring migration season in the the islands of Rügen and Hiddensee revealed the sound of the landscape at this moment. We are learning about the changing migration patterns of birds as Habitat Sounds speak with ecologists and ornithologists and listen to the landscape mapping change. The patterns of migration are chain reaction from global warming, increased desertification in the Sahara Desert. This is affecting the habitats in this area of Southern and Northern Europe. We have witnessed this change in climate in North Africa in South Sahara Morocco, along the forests of Southern Spain in Doñana and its affects here in the Baltic Sea. Patterns of migration have become smaller and east/west rather than north/south for smaller birds.

Map : Birds Without Borders: The Great Avian Migration between Europe and Africa, My Country?Europe

Some of the birds are not migrating due to warmer climates, and extreme heat in the Sahara in Africa. So you may find quite a few nestled in and set up inside the marshes, forests and the farmlands.

Corn Bunting and Eurasian Skylark

Alongside the marshes and small lakes and forests in Spyker Castle, Jasmund National Park UNESCO site, and Hiddensee Island you could find many birds singing. We were so fortunate to record them in their chatter. There were Common Chiffchaffs, House Sparrows, Wood-Pigeons, Carrion Crows, Eurasian Blackcaps, White Wagtails, Eurasian Magpies Graylag Geese, Barn Swallows, Eurasian Blue Tits, Great Tits ,Eurasian Nuthatches, Corn Buntings and lots of Eurasian Skylarks. There was a Rook, a Jackdaw, Canadian Goose, Willow Warbler, Eurasian Linnet, and a Barn Swallow. These were moving along with the European Goldfinches, Lesser Whitethroats, House Wrens, Golden Crowned Kinglets, Starlings, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Song Thrushes and Eurasian Wrens singing loud and Greenfinch, Common Firecrest, along side the Rooster, Short Toed Creeper and Mallards and Common Gulls.

Common Chiffchaff

A lake marsh at Spyker Castle, Rügen Island, Baltic Sea, Germany.

House Sparrow inside a large nest of Sparrows on Hiddensee Island, Baltic Sea, Germany.

Swans swimming off the ferry boat arriving to Hiddensee Island, Baltic Sea, Germany.

Fields of yellow flowers of kale on the island of Rügen, Baltic Sea, Germany.

Eurasian Blackbird sitting on a house in Hiddensee Island.

Swan swimming along the island port of Hiddensee

Great Tit and Common Chiaffinch

We walked through Jasmund National Park on Rügen Island which we discovered is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its ancient beech forests. It is one of the last primeval beech forests in Europe. The energy in this ancient beech forest was just magic. Upon entering there was so much positive energy that this forest was cared for and that we were stepping into a slow cycle of time so large. It was really stunning. "Germany is a beech country by nature. The European beech forests are very young in geological history and unique in the world. During the last ice age, the beech withdrew to Southern and Southeastern Europe. Only within the last 4,000 years has it developed into dominant tree species in Europe. Nevertheless, it has probably still not reached its climatic distribution limit. The process of migration of a single tree species over almost one continent cannot be observed in any other place in the world.”

The sloped old beech forests along the water remain unused for humans and protected and some of the most valuable, resembling the real primeval forests.

Ancient Beech Forests of Jasmund National Park.

We walked down pathways along sunlit migrated beech trees which were woven paths down to Jasmund vivid black and white chalk stone and multi stone colors along the shore. Upon arriving were small miniature stone islands of moss along the shore.

Vista view of the Baltic Sea from Jasmund Beech Forest trails.

Views from the Beech Forest in Jasmund National Park.

Arrival onto the shore with moss converted stones which resembled small islands in the sea.

Moss Stones at the shore of the Baltic at Jasmine National Park.

Recording above and below water the rhythms of gentle waves at the shore.

The stones and cliffs at Jasmund National Park along the Baltic Sea in Rügen Island, Germany.

Travelling back into the island to listen to more migration sounds of the Baltic Sea, the weather was cold and clouds were ominous. The fields took on a sea of yellow, filled with kale flowers. It was time to move through the areas where at dusk it would be possible to find returning birds from foraging.

Searching for cranes amidst the farm fields of Rügen at dusk.

An inlet in Rügen had marsh areas for small birds to sit in.

Barn Swallow

Along these lake and marsh areas were an abundance of bird songs, not only in the morning and dusk, but all day. Here we see a road along Spyker Castle.

Thankful to have had good luck in recording on field and to sit in the sounds of the changing landscape.

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